20 October 2015

Colton Ferraris: Behind the Scenes with H&H at Duxford

Last week the sale of the two Ferraris bequeathed by Richard Colton to the RNLI was covered extensively by the media. A total of £8.53m was raised for the charity- the single biggest donation that they have ever received. Hagerty were given behind-the-scenes access to find out just how much effort goes into making such a high-profile event a success.

Good auctions are always theatrical affairs. OK, so British sales rarely feature the general argy-bargy that you get at European events or the razzmatazz of American auctions, but they still need to be dramatic. At Duxford last week, within the surroundings of the Imperial War Museum, Simon Hope and his team at H&H did a job that would have made Dickie Attenborough proud.

The last car was the big one- Richard Colton’s Ferrari 250GT SWB- and the whole day had been building up to this moment. With a bank of H&H staff on the telephones to potential buyers, and yet more present in the room, Hope started with a flourish.

“What shall we say to start- three million?... OK, five million.” Not bad for an opening bid. Hope then worked back and forth until two bidders remained. One, a well-known collector on the telephone, stopped at £6.5m. The other, present in the room and buying on behalf of a client, did not. “Fair warning… it is being sold… at six-point-six million pounds… All done?...” CRASH. The gavel went down; the RNLI had another two lifeboats.

But however theatrical the event, the final result would not have been achieved without months of very hard work on the part of H&H. Hope was determined to get the best price he could, both for the RNLI and for the memory of his late friend Colton. This meant telling people about the cars- and their extraordinary story.

But telling the tale was not enough- with cars, you have to see and hear them to get a sense of how special they are. So the Ferraris were taken to Mottram Hall in Cheshire for the Northern Launch, then south to Dover Street in London in July (where Hagerty first saw the cars- Colton Ferrari article here). H&H hired Oulton Park to show off these cars in their prime setting, before shipping them down to London again when they appeared at the Houses of Parliament. Photo shoots for Classic & Sports Car followed, and even a photoshoot at Ford’s Dunton test track in Essex.

The result of all this touring- supported by some superb videos produced in-house by H&H- was that the media took note, and suddenly everyone was talking about the cars.

But PR is one thing- attracting potential buyers with enough money in the bank is quite another. Behind the scenes, private discussions were going on, private viewings being arranged, not just in the UK but for clients as far away as the USA, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan and throughout Europe. Then H&H had to complete their due diligence- to confirm that these potential buyers actually had access to the funds needed for such a purchase.

The provenance of the cars- already amazing- was improved, with marque-specialist background research undertaken, and Ferrari Classiche certification achieved on the 275 GTB/4 (inspection on the 250GT SWB).

The end result was a scintillating auction and record prices for the cars. With H&H charging the RNLI nothing in commission, entry fees, transport or marketing expenses, that meant the maximum possible amount of money going to the charity- something that truly provides Richard Colton with a lasting legacy that his family and friends can be very proud of.

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